Beer And Groping: Why Munich's Oktoberfest Is Not Always Fun For Women
Two female reporters run the gauntlet at Oktoberfest and share their tales of grabbing, groping, drunken come-ons, sexist insults and flashing foreigners. For women, the annual event’s drunken antics can cross the line to degrading and even dangerous.
By Karoline Beisel and Beate Wild
MUNICH - The short distance to the rest room is an obstacle course. Three hugs from drunk guys I don't know. Two slaps on the fanny. The skirt of my dirndl lifted once. And beer poured deliberately down my décolleté. All this in just 30 meters. It's Saturday, 11 a.m. in the Hofbräu tent. Another day at Oktoberfest has just begun.
The owners of the busy hands also serve up chat lines: "come on, give us a kiss' is the tamest of the come-ons. Some of the remarks are vulgar in the extreme. Any signs of annoyance, or a brush off, are met with "bitch," "slut," or worse.
At Oktoberfest, women are repeatedly harassed and frequently have to use their hands and feet to defend themselves -- because if they don't help themselves, they're lost. Everything seems to be tolerated from men who are very drunk on beer. Security or the police only get involved if a guy freaks out – and, say, starts beating up on somebody with a king-size beer stein. There's too much to do to worry about whether or not some chick gets an ass-cheek cupped.
There are some Scots in the Hofbräu tent wearing kilts. One of them is sitting on the ground, vomiting. The others are busy flashing – pulling their skirts up to show they've gone commando. Two Australians wearing Bavarian-style hats are standing nearby, grabbing the clothes of every girl who walks past them. Before you know it, they're feeling up your tits. To get away, the only solution is to ram the offender full force and push him out of the way. Meanwhile, the Scots are still flashing, and a Japanese man is taking pictures of the whole thing.
An air of anything goes
To be fair, behavior is not this extreme in all the tents. The Hofbräu and Schottenhamel tents are known for excess, which is why they are favorites with the young international crowd. Drunken abandon starts here earlier than it does elsewhere at the fest, although in general, the later the hour the fewer the inhibitions and the rowdier the behavior.
Not all the exhibitionist behavior is perpetrated by men: any regular at Oktoberfest knows that some women go wild, remove their bras and start waving them around the air. Just as often, drunk men exhibit their genitalia – preferably, while standing on a bench just as a woman who catches their interest happens to be walking by. In the worst cases, these drunks grab at the woman's hands and try to get her to touch their exposed parts. Scenes like this are very frequent, and as a general rule nobody intervenes.
One woman working as a waitress in the Hofbräu tent was suddenly confronted with two Italian men dancing rings around her and stripping until they were completely naked. Clapping bystanders cheered the two Italians on. Not a single person came to the woman's help, and there was no security to be seen. She was finally rescued by a male colleague who came running and drove the Italians away.
Foreign guests in particular appear to believe anything goes at Oktoberfest, that there are no rules. Many seem to feel that the traditional dirndl necklines, which show a deep décolleté, offer some sort of license. But women wearing jeans and a T-shirt find that the behavior is just as bad towards them.
The situation is worst for female waitstaff. Corinna has worked as a waitress at Oktoberfest for three years running. The 25-year-old uses what she earns to finance part of her university education. "It's hard enough schlepping 10 one-liter steins of beer around, but dealing with the harassment is much worse," she says.
Corinna is not her real name: she doesn't want her name in the paper, and talking about this makes her uncomfortable. "When you're pushing your way through the crowd holding beers there's no way you can defend yourself against gropers' -- so a lot of guys choose just those moments to grab her behind or reach up under her skirt, she says.
Read the original story in German
Photo - Mr Moss